Black Petals Issue #105, Autumn, 2023

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Joy (noun): a source of delight: Fiction by Noah Levin
Master of Dream: Fiction by Ash Ibrahim
Nightshade: Fiction by Adam Vine
Red Popsicles: Fiction by Caitlyn Pace
Temporally Closed: Fiction by J. Elliott
The Mansion Dwellers: Fiction by Robb White
Time for a Change: Fiction by Lamont A. Turner
Bernie's Friends: Flash Fiction by Phil Temples
Death Visits the Sapling Trust: Flash Fiction by Paul Radcliffe
Monster: Flash Fiction by Zvi A. Sesling
Sleep: Flash Fiction by Kurt Hohmann
Welcome, Ghouls: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Ode to Chateau Marmont: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Cadaver Dogs: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Phases of the Moon: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
The Darkest Octave: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Green Man Standing: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Day That Mary Went Away: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Northern Migration of Souls: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
Gone West: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
If I Scream: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
Witchery: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
Carry On: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
The Song of the Dead: Poem by Ben Huber

Lamont A. Turner: Time for a Change

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Art by Cynthia Fawcett 2023

Time For A Change

By Lamont A. Turner

 

     Edgar wasn’t meant to find the pocket watch. Nobody was. I thought I had thrown it away along with all the other possessions belonging to my ex-husband, but there it was, glistening on the end of a golden chain, suspended from Edgar’s fingers.

     “Look at this! I found it in a shoe box in the back corner of the hall pantry.”

     I must have blanched. Edgar lowered the arm holding up the watch and shifted it to his palm.

     “It was his, wasn’t it?” he said, staring at it like it might burst into flames at any second. I nodded and turned back to the pile of clothes on the bed I had been sorting. I didn’t know what to say.

     “If it bothers you I’ll get rid of it, but we shouldn’t just throw it away. It looks like those are real diamonds set in the face.”

     “They are,” I said as I stuffed a pair of Edgar’s tube socks into one another and set them atop the pile of socks at the edge of the bed. “It belonged to Harold’s grandfather.”

     “The one he murdered?” Edgar asked.

     “The one who turned him into a monster,” I said. “He tortured Harold when he was a boy. He was a worse fiend than Harold was.”

     “You’re saying he deserved to have his head chopped off?”

     “If what I heard at Harold’s trial was even half true, he deserved worse. Of course those girls Harold…”

     I felt Edgar’s hand on my shoulder and his breath on my neck as he whispered: “It’s Okay. I’ll take it to an appraiser tomorrow. They may even offer to buy it on the spot.” I nodded again and went to work separating the t-shirts, setting aside the ones with holes in them.

     That night I was awakened by a peal of thunder and sat up in bed as a flash of lightning illuminated the room, revealing the empty pillow next to me. Turning on the lamp on my nightstand, I saw Edgar’s robe was missing from the hook by his dresser. A faint glow from the hall beyond outlined the bedroom door, which had been left partially open. Finding my slippers, I quickly wrapped my blanket over my shoulders to ward off the chill permeating the old house, as it often did on nights when we’d neglected to turn on the space heater, and ventured into the hall. The light was coming from the kitchen and I followed it to find Edgar sitting at the table, the watch dangling from its chain mere inches from his face.

    “What are you doing?” I asked, softening my voice so as not to startle him. All of his attention was clearly focused on the watch and I doubted he’d heard me enter.

    “The storm,” he muttered. “Couldn’t sleep.” I didn’t mention that Harold had also claimed he hadn’t been able to sleep the night I found him in a similar position, staring at that watch after murdering his grandfather. Of course, I hadn’t known that at the time. That only came out after the other murders when Harold led the investigators to his grandfather’s remains. No one had missed the old man.

     “Put that thing away and come back to bed,” I said, wishing I had the courage to snatch the watch from Edgar’s hands, dash it to the floor, and crush it under my heel. I couldn’t bring myself to touch it though. I could barely stand to look at it.

     “It makes a lovely sound—almost hypnotic,” Edgar said, his gaze still fixed on the watch.

     “You promised you’d get rid of it,” I said, surprised at the fear welling up in me, causing the words to squeak as they came out. Used to way my voice would change pitch when I was anxious, Edgar finally looked up from the watch, his expression redolent with abashment.

    “Yeah. Of course. First thing in the morning,” Edgar said, setting the watch on the table and nudging it away with his fingertips like it was something dirty.  “Consider it gone.”

    I slid out a chair across the table from Edgar and eased into it, taking a moment to gather my thoughts before reaching for his hand. We had never discussed Harold much after the night I got the news he’d hanged himself in his cell. I didn’t want to relive any of it, and Edgar, although obviously curious, hadn’t pushed it.

     “That watch isn’t just a reminder of bad times. It’s more than that,” I said, trying to keep the squeak out of my voice. “It did something to Harold. It changed him.”

      “Didn’t he take it after he killed his grandfather? It sounds to me like he’d already snapped.”

      “He claimed it was self-defense when he killed his grandfather, and I believe that. The man was violent. Harold hated him, but he would have never done something like that if he wasn’t forced.”

      “He hacked off the man’s head, buried him, and stole his watch,” Edgar said, shaking his head. “That doesn’t sound like self- defense. And what about the others, all those girls?”

     “That didn’t start until after he took the watch. He said he had a compulsion to take it—that it called to him and wouldn’t let him leave without it. It was the watch that made him kill those girls. It’s as though, as long as it was ticking, his grandfather had some hold on him. You think I’m being ridiculous, but Harold believed that. He believed…”

     “That’s crazy,” Edgar said, slipping the watch into the pocket of his robe. “Harold was sick. He killed his grandfather, decided he liked killing, and killed some more. Blaming the watch was just a way for him to justify it to whatever humanity he had left.”

    I had to admit he made more sense than I did, but I still didn’t like the way he kept his hand in the pocket with the watch, fondling it as he sulked off to b

***

 

     I awoke to answer the summons of the clanging shutters and ended up drenched by the time I’d secured them. Slamming the window shut, I peered out at the river that had replaced the road at the foot of the hill our driveway emptied into. We had selected a house in the country for the seclusion it offered, but that seclusion came at the price of modern drainage and pumping stations. We would have plenty of time to deal with the leaks in the ceiling for the next day or so at least, longer if the rain kept up. I looked at the clock on the nightstand. It was almost noon. Where was Edgar, and why had he let me sleep so late? Stepping out into the hall, I saw the ladder to the attic had been pulled down and assumed he was up there checking for leaks. I shouted up into the opening in the ceiling. Edgar did not answer. The folding ladder blocked my way down the hall, but I didn’t want to raise it if he was up there. I called out again, and again receiving no response, I ascended into the attic.

    It was dark in the attic.  I felt around until my hand brushed the cord hanging from below an uncovered bulb and gave it a tug, but the light didn’t come on. As I peered into the darkness, searching for some sign of my husband, I became aware of a familiar ticking echoing through the hallway below me and felt the ladder quiver.

     “Where were you?” I asked, looking down into the red rimmed eyes staring up at me from the bottom rung. Only they weren’t Edgar’s eyes. There was something animalistic in them. In the dim light I could have sworn Edgar actually licked his lips as though in anticipation.

     “I thought you were in the attic,” I said, my voice cracking. “There’s something wrong with the light.”

      “Powers out,” Edgar muttered, inching up the ladder, his right hand behind his back. “I’ve got a flashlight in my back pocket.”

        If Edgar had waited until he was closer, or if his left hand hadn’t been needed to steady himself on the ladder, allowing him to grab my ankle, he could have killed me right then. As it was, the hand that shot out from behind his back, clutching a paring knife, missed its target. Edgar snarled and plunged the blade into the wooden rung next to my bare foot, again missing, this time by less than an inch. The second assault stirred me to action. Instinctively, I kicked at him, sending him careening backwards down the ladder to land headfirst on the hardwood floor. Before he could get to his feet, I was in the attic and had pulled the ladder, the back of which served as the attic door, up after me. With the storm raging outside, and a thick layer of dust coating the solitary porthole-sized window, I was plunged into near-total darkness.

     Not being able to see Edgar, it was difficult to believe that the grunts and curses that wafted up through the attic door and echoed in the vents came from him. The man in the hallway below me sounded like a stranger until I heard him mutter: “I’ll get her. I have all the time in the world.”

All the time in the world?  How often had I heard Harold use that expression? It hadn’t been until after he took the watch that he’d started lagging, showing no interest in any of the things we used to like to do. His response to my constant attempts to spur him to action had been “I have all the time in the world,” always accompanied with a knowing chuckle. There was no chuckling from the man in the hallway below me, though. His words reverberated with a barely suppressed rage. The thump of his fists on the walls and the sound of breaking glass, probably the vase by the window Edgar had bought for me as an anniversary gift, weren’t nearly as distressing as the silence that followed.

      I’d pulled the rope to the attic door and ladder  up with me, slipping it through the gap between the door and the frame and wrapping it around my wrist, but Edgar would be able to circumnavigate my defenses with nothing more than a step stool and a crowbar. Disentangling the rope from my wrist, I wrapped it around a pipe, but knew the pipe would last only a little longer than my wrist would have once he went to work on the door. If only I had some light! I knew there was an axe up there with me somewhere. Where was it?

     As I stared about, trying to penetrate the surrounding darkness, I suddenly felt a jolt that started like a punch to the head and then raced down my spine to settle in the pit of my stomach. I’d remembered there was another entrance to the attic through the ceiling of our bedroom closet. Using a chair to stand on, Edgar, or whoever he was now, could get to me simply by pushing aside the board covering the entrance and climbing through.

     If I could find the other entrance, I might be able to pile some of the boxes that lined the walls of the attic on top of it, but that would mean traversing a section of flooring composed of only support beams lined with insulation. One wrong step and I’d most likely fall through the ceiling. I thought I could, perhaps, locate one of the boards with my hands and walk across it like a tightrope until I found the door, but doubted I could do so carrying the boxes necessary to create a barrier. I considered sliding the boxes across the boards while I followed behind on my hands and knees, each leg on a separate beam. I spent too much time thinking.  Somewhere in the attic a watch was ticking. I was too late! I held my breath and listened as the ticking grew louder. It seemed to increase in tempo as it increased in volume, keeping time with my racing heart. Or was my heart responsible for the noise to begin with? Perhaps, it was nothing but the steady drip from a leaky roof, transformed by a fear-fed imagination. Surely, if Edgar was in the attic, I would hear more than the ticking of the watch. The sound of boards creaking under his feet or his panting as he navigated the cluttered floor in the darkness should have given him away. Wouldn’t I have heard him climbing through the hatch?

     I was still, save for my fingers which I employed to unravel the knot I’d made in the rope tied to the pipe. I’d loosened it considerably when my progress was halted by the light that flashed in my eyes. Again, Edgar was too eager. If he’d waited until he was a little closer to turn on his flashlight, he would have had me, but he was still too far away to grab me, and the light had produced a reflex action in my legs, causing them to kick at the attic door. The knot gave, the ladder dropped, and I slid down it, landing on my feet and breaking into a sprint without a moment’s pause until I reached the doorway to the kitchen. Hearing a crash, I looked back and saw Edgar on his knees at the foot of the ladder, shaking his head. He’d fallen after lunging for me and had only managed to partially break his fall with the left arm that now hung uselessly at his side. He blinked rapidly, trying to force his eyes to focus, wiped at the blood oozing from his split lip on the sleeve of his sweatshirt, and howled. Hearing the inhuman wail broke my stupor and I propelled myself through the kitchen and toward the back door on legs that threatened to collapse under me at any moment. I felt as though I were running through wet cement as I heard Edgar’s footfalls in the hall, time slowing down only for me to allow him to catch up. Reaching the door, I threw it open and dashed out into the rain.

     There was a tool shed beside the house and I ran to it, hoping to get inside before he reached the porch and saw where I went. With luck he would think I ran into the woods and I’d be able to slip out of the shed and put some distance between us while he searched among the high foliage. There was a house about a mile down the road. If I could get to it, I might find protection.

    With my back against the wall of the shed, a garden spade clutched in both hands, I tried to listen for any sound that might indicate Edgar was approaching, but all I could hear was the roar of the rain beating on the tin roof. I had to wait long enough for him to venture a bit into the woods, but not so long that he’d discover his error and head back. Counting to a hundred, I crept to the door and began to ease it open with the tip of the spade, ready to strike if Edgar was lurking outside.

     The wind caught the door and blew it open before I could loosen my grip on the spade and grab it. Across the yard, by the line of trees, Edgar, alerted by the clang of the door against the wall of the shed, held his hand against his forehead to block the rain and stared right at me.  I had to make a run for it! If I could make it back to the house in time, I would be able to lock him out, buying enough time to call for help if I could get a signal on the phone I’d left on the nightstand by my bed. I got as far as the porch steps when my head was yanked back by the hair with enough force to pull me off my feet. Landing on my back in the mud, I stared up at Edgar who gave me just enough time to catch my breath before pinning me to the ground with a boot on my chest. I gasped as he ground his heel into my breastbone before lifting his foot to spin around and drop down on top of me, straddling me between his knees.

    “Edgar! Please!” I begged.

     “Edgar? Edgar is just a mask I wear,” he said, dragging the blade of the knife across his forehead. Blood dripped onto my nightgown as he traced the outline of his face and then cut around his eyes before setting down the knife to carefully peel away the skin, revealing the muscles and bone underneath. I screamed. He threw back his head and laughed.

     “Who are you? Harold?”

     “Harold? Another mask I wore after he liberated me from that wreck of a body I was stuck inside of. I wanted Harold to kill me. It was all part of the plan. Poor stupid Harold! I never understood what you saw in him.”

     As he raised the knife, I became aware of the ticking of the watch. It was in his pants pocket, pressed tightly between the fabric and his thigh. Before he could bring the knife down, I threw my hand out, grabbed a loose paving stone from the walkway leading to the porch, and slammed it on his leg. Stunned, he dropped the blade and leaned back, his knees sliding forward into my arm pits. I slammed the stone down again and the ticking stopped.

    The rage in his eyes was replaced by confusion as Edgar returned. For a moment, the confusion gave way to panic as those eyes beheld me, sprawled out on the ground, drenched in blood, then Edgar fell back, his head striking the walkway with a wet thud. Edgar was dead, and with the destruction of the watch, so too, finally, was Harold’s grandfather. No longer in danger, and with nothing to be done for Edgar, I laid there and let the cool rain wash the blood off my face. There was no rush. I had all the time in the world.

                                                                  The End

Lamont Turner’s work has appeared in over 200 online and print venues including Mystery Weekly, Mystery Tribune, Cosmic Horror Monthly, Metastellar, and other magazines, podcasts and anthologies. His short story collection, "Souls In A Blender" was released by St. Rooster Books in October 2021. A second collection, "Bleeding Out In The  Rain" is scheduled for release later this year.





Cynthia Fawcett has been writing for fun or money since she was able to hold a pen. A Jersey Girl at heart, she got her journalism degree at Marquette University in Milwaukee and now writes mostly technical articles about hydraulics and an occasional short story or poem on any other subject.

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